A hard-hitting, gut-wrenching dive into safety and fear, A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar) feels intimate and yet elusive. Two young girls explore their place in a world that threatens to end them at any given moment. Women go missing when the lights go out and no one knows why, or at least no one wants to say why. When the power blacks out again, they’re left only with their imaginations for the hope of escape. This show feels tense and wrought with pain, but what makes it most frightening is that it doesn’t seem all that fanciful.
With a large portion of the show taking place in the dark, the experience of being there is of uncertainty, tension and careful listening. In pitch black the performers (Caitlin Burley and Michelle Ny) share stories with us, some true to their characters and others feats of their imaginations. But what is underneath all of this is anxiety and uncertainty. Why does this keep happening? What does it mean? They’re told not to go out in the dark, but what are they to do when the lights keep turning off? A year after the horrifying murder of Eurydice Dixon, the stress these characters are under is familiar to me, as a woman who too walks home alone late at night. The world of the show is gloomy, beaten down and perhaps even apocalyptic, yet the stories don’t at all feel far from home.
A droning, sometimes pulsating soundtrack plays in the background throughout, making the feeling of tension palpable and the world seem grey and hazy. When torches come into play, the lighting of only small corners of the space at once creates an enigmatic atmosphere, before we are thrown again into eerie darkness. Where the dialogue may make the point of the story clear, the ambience created in the room is what really makes it affective.
The characters are not alike and don’t get along but they are bound by their despair and need for survival. Caitlin Burley and Michelle Ny have an endearing back and forth, keeping the pace of the show alive and the dynamic electric when they butt heads. Where Bell (Michelle Ny) is bitter and sarcastic, Steph (Caitlin Burley) is wide-eyed and determined. Together they just try to keep their head above water.
The show feels like an outlet for grief, pain and rage against the fears that women are to deal with. It doesn’t offer a solution or happy ending, but instead gives a moment for catharsis in a safe place, guided by rich storytelling.
On at the Kings Cross Theatre until the 5th of October:
Director: Hannah Goodwin